I’m Freezing! Why Do I Get So Cold On Night Shift?

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If there is one thing I know about working on the night shift, is that at some point during the night you’re going to get the chills and it’s not because of a change in building temperature. Your body starts to shiver and you have no idea why, as you’ve been wearing the same clothes since the start of the shift. So this leaves a number of us posing the question – why do I get so cold on night shift?

Feeling cold on night shift is due to us actively working against our body’s natural internal clock. This clock cools your core temperature down overnight in response to darkness, irrespective of when you sleep or work.

If you’re working the night shift and often deal with a nasty bout of coldness settling into your bones, follow along with us! We’ve got some tips for trying to reverse as much of the trend as possible, by staying warm throughout your night shift.

The Science Behind Feeling Cold on Night Shift

According to the Sleep Foundation, our body undergoes frequent fluctuations in temperature over the course of the day and night, to correlate with sleep-wake patterns. This is all thanks to the circadian rhythm which, if you are not familiar, is the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle affecting most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes.

Why we specifically feel cold overnight though is because there is a natural drop in our core body temperature. Your core temperature is usually 36°C to 39°C, however, this figure will drop a few degrees overnight, specifically between the hours of 3am and 6am, giving you the chills. This is a totally natural response to a lack of natural light, letting your body know it’s time to rest – a tough thing to do when at work!

As to why this drop happens, there are a few theories. One is this daily cycle of body temperature helps control other systems in the body, such as the liver and kidneys. Another popular possibility is that decreased metabolism occurs when it’s cooler weather meaning we don’t need to eat when the moon is high in the sky as there is limited light and energy expenditure.

For us night shift workers, this drop can feel a little disconcerting. We know our bodies are telling us to go to sleep but unfortunately, we can’t just pull out a pillow and nestle under a desk somewhere!

These feelings of being cold in the early morning can often be coupled with feelings of nausea, sleepiness and drowsiness. This is why we need to stay warm and keep busy so we don’t get caught out (or take a break and have a quick power nap if possible).

But what more can night shift workers do to stop or limit these feelings of coldness? Read on…

Stopping the Chill, Does My Body Ever Adjust to Night Shift?

Unfortunately, even permanent night shift workers cannot stop the chill. As discussed, our bodies are naturally designed to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when the sun is shining. Though our bodies may get accustomed to the night shift and are able to sleep soundly during the day, at any point, our bodies will revert back to what’s “normal” rather than adjust to this new way of life. We are not mythical unicorns, unfortunately.

For permanent night workers, the advantage for you is preparedness. You know what’s coming, how it feels and what you need to withstand the temperature changes. Though even time spent working the night shift likely won’t stop the chills.

Tips for Staying Warm on Night Shift

As it’s easy for us to get cold while working the night shift, we’ve come up with a long list of ways to add heat while working so that you’re not teeth chattering all night and can’t concentrate on your work. Let’s get into it!

Bundle up

Most workplaces are no different than every dad across the globe… a stickler about adjusting the thermostat. If you know there is a chance of getting cold throughout your shift, dress for the occasion. Bundling up is one of the top ways to combat the cold!

Drape yourself in whatever you need to remain warm through your shift as you know the chill is inevitable. This could be a sweater, vest, scarf, or whatever else you can find rummaging through your closet. I would even suggest bringing extra jackets or layers along with you to work. That way you can just add to what you already have the colder you get.

Being organized here really pays off. If you’re interested in some more tips on how to best prepare for a night shift, this post will tick that box.

Turn up the heat

This one may not always be an option because a lot of organizations have a set temperature for their building. However, if it is a possibility, crank up the heat! You may have to ask your employer before messing around with the thermostat but the worst thing they can tell you is no! Just explain to them that you’re getting extremely cold throughout the night and chances are they will be willing to work with you!

Also keep in mind though, that turning up the heat too much can also have you feeling cozy and lull you into sleep. So it’s a fine balance of finding the right temperature at the right time.

When adjusting the temperature do it strategically as you probably don’t want it on during the early stages of the shift as it may make you a little too sleepy.

Cold days, hot drinks

A great way to stay warm throughout your shift is to have a hot drink by your side! Some great drinks to warm you right up include hot tea or broth and a few other delicious options we chat about here.

If you want to ensure that your drink stays hot for a long period of time, there are a wide variety of great thermoses you can choose from that keep your drink toasty for hours on end. We love the BEAST Tumbler and have a full review of it here.

Interested in some alternative night shift beverages? Here’s a full list to keep your night exciting.

BEAST tumbler review

Electric Heating Pad

You can’t go wrong with a good heating pad. They are a great way to keep yourself warm throughout the night. I typically sit on mine, throw it over my lap, or have it pressed against my back. Wherever your cold spots are, they are no match for a heating pad.

Before bringing the pad into the office, check with your employer, as some may not want them to be present. However, it is the perfect way to fight against the cold in an inexpensive manner. There are even some that come with a massage function! Talk about a two-for-one.

Here is the popular GENIANI XL Heating Pad on Amazon. The reviews on this one are great!

If you are limited with electricity connections, a heat pack may be more practical to warm you up! This is the one we have but any heat pack will do the trick as a short term solution.

Stay Active

One of the best ways to ensure that you don’t freeze over is to move throughout your shift. This is especially true for those who work night shift jobs that are sedentary. Remaining in a chair for hours on end not only inhibits the coldness sinking into your bones but can also make you unbearably sleepy.

Not a good combination when you have a whole shift ahead of you!

I always suggest getting up on the hour, each hour that you work at the very least. You can get up and walk in place or just stretch – anything to get your blood flowing. Set an alarm if you need to as a reminder to move.

We talk about the above tip in this article How to Survive Night Shift with a Desk Job. Have a squiz if you’re stuck at your desk overnight and need a helping help.

Space Heater

Do you find yourself constantly having chills while working? You may want to consider investing in a space heater. While most do not often produce a ton of heat – they do produce enough to keep the chills at bay. I know a lot of businesses that will not allow for space heaters in the facility due to the potential of a fire. So, be sure that you run it by your employer before bringing it to work with you.

If you’re not familiar with what a space heater is, below is a photo of a popular one on Amazon. It may be a bit odd and cumbersome transferring this too and from work every day but maybe your employer could purchase one for you and the team as a gesture of kindness and goodwill.

Cozy Socks

Cozy socks – my favorite! I could go on and on about a good pair of socks, especially if they are thick and fluffy. Here’s a fun fact: your feet play a very vital role in regulating your body’s temperature. Your feet have large surface areas, which means tons of blood vessels in them. When our feet are warm, these blood vessels constrict allowing for proper blood flow. These are our favorite ones when wearing boots.

Fingerless Gloves

When I start to get cold, the first body part to tap out to the coldness is typically the hands. Fingerless gloves are practical and functional! While they still warm the base of your hands, promoting blood flow; they also allow you to complete tasks at work or use your phone. The best part about fingerless gloves is that you can get a quality pair at a small price. Here’s a wool pair we love!

Cover your Ears!

You know how our parents used to tell us that if we didn’t put on a hat we’d lose half of the heat in our heads? Yeah, well…that’s not true. In fact, we only lose a minuscule portion of heat through our head. However, the warm hat can help when your ears get cold and it can provide protection for your head, ears and neck during the cold. If I have my toboggan or beanie on, I never worry about my ears being cold.

Hand Warmers

Do you remember those hot hands that you used to take to football games when it was super cold? That you would shake up and it would heat like a little heat pocket. Yes, they still make those and they are exactly what I’m referring to. They are great with keeping your hands warm and stop them from getting stiff and hurting you if it gets too cold. You can keep them in your jacket pocket and occasionally slip your hands in there to warm them up a bit!

Here is a fancy version on Amazon which are USB chargeable.

Heated Insoles

I’ve just recently learned about the wonders of heated shoe insoles and couldn’t wait to share them with you because – they’re genius! These insoles work by heating up and trapping said heat in your shoes. So basically it’s like hot hands but for your feet! Genius! Check them out here on Amazon. I would be cautious while using these, I would ensure you wear them with socks, especially for an extended period of time.  

Throw Covers

This is mainly for those who don’t do a lot of moving around while working (anyone who works in an office setting). If your workplace will allow it, consider bringing a throw cover with you. Something that you can throw over your legs to keep you warm while working. Now, don’t overdo it. Don’t bring in your entire bedspread. Keep it light! You don’t want to risk not being able to bring in cover at all. Yes to throw covers, no to duvets!

Keep Doors & Windows Closed

If you’re working inside, a good way to contain the heat in the room is to keep the doors and windows closed and secured. This prevents a breeze from sweeping through the room and engulfing you in the cold. It also prevents proper airflow which can contribute to the coldness.


Somehow exercising always seems to weasel its way into our narrative. However, if getting up and doing your normal steps and movements doesn’t warm the insides, spend 5 minutes doing some squats or jumping jacks to really get your blood flowing. If the building you work in has stairs – you may even consider going up and down the stairs a few times to get your warm blood circulating throughout the body!

Staying Cool While Sleeping During the Day

As we’ve given you a heap of tips to stay warm at night, we also need to let you know a little something that won’t help with sleeping during the day. Just as you naturally get cold at night, you’ll heat up during the day, which can make it difficult to daytime sleep.

So here are some tips to assist in regulating your body temperature when having a daytime sleep.

Shut the Blinds

Unfortunately, the sun is shining brightest when you’re trying to get your beauty sleep. It’s one of the biggest downsides of working the night shift which you’ve probably figured out. Your room needs to be devoid of the sun if you’re going to get optimal sleep. Therefore, you need to pull the blinds shut as tightly as you can get them. You want to keep the sun rays from beaming down on you in your slumber.

Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains are a must for a night shifter. They prevent any light from entering into your room, from the sun to street lights and car lights. So, if you pull your blinds shut and then draw your blackout curtains to – chances are you’ll rarely notice the light outside, making for great sleeping quarters. Some blackout curtains also assist with preventing outside noise from seeping in – which is an added bonus.

There are so many different varieties of blackout blinds to choose from. Some like the heavy drape curtains like this one, whilst others prefer a stick-on type material like this. Before you buy, really have a look around because there are so many on offer.

No Heavy Meals

Refrain from eating heavy or spicy meals right before you go to bed. Heavy meals take more energy for your body to digest. Therefore, it’s going to raise the body temperature. So, if you’re going to eat something before you go to bed – try to make it light on the stomach. Spicy meals have a tendency to make you sweat and elevate your heart rate. So, steer clear of the curries!

There are some foods that are great to eat before bed because they are naturally high in Melatonin. Here is a blog post we made talking all about it. We also wrote another post titled, Uncontrollable Sleepiness After Eating: Ditch the ZZZ’s which is worth checking out if you can’t function after a break due to sleepiness.

Lower Air Conditioner Settings

Oh the great debate: what should you be setting your air conditioners to? When you go to Google the same question – you’re going to get a lot of different answers. Some are going to tell you seventy-eight degrees (no thanks), with others telling you somewhere between sixty and sixty-eight degrees. What we say is… set your thermostat to where YOU are comfortable. Not everyone is going to be comfortable at the same temperature. Whatever is going to keep you cool while you sleep – go with that. If you’re waking up hot, make a change.

No Tight Clothing

Try not to wear anything that is tight on your body. For starters, I can imagine that it would be uncomfortable for the tightness alone. Plus, the tight clothing aids in trapping the heat. Therefore, you should consider wearing clothes that are loose-fitting and offer some breathing room.

Replace Your Mattress

Sometimes it’s just time for a new mattress. Depending on what type of mattress you have, it could be retaining unnecessary heat. There are thousands of different mattresses out there that have the ability to regulate temperature. This could change the way that you sleep for the long haul! Be sure to research different brands and get exactly what you’re looking for.

If you are looking to upgrade your current mattress, Nolah sleep is well worth a look. They have a huge variety of mattresses and sleeping accessories such as bases, blankets and pillows to help you get the perfect night sleep.

Nolah Mattress

You should now know that feeling cold for a moment on nights is expected. Even better, you now have some great ways to withstand the temperature drop within your body. Working the night shift is already a difficult task to muster through – no need to add being frozen to the list.

We also wanted to throw a few extra tips in there just in case you were having the opposite problem while going to sleep during the day. As always, feel free to save the link to this article so that you can come back and easily review it whenever you need.

There is a shift working gig that doesn’t get cold even in the wee hours and that is a dishwasher at a restaurant. Keen to learn more about the job most take for granted? Click here.



Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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